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O'Brien's power over the 53-man roster

In a bigger piece Monday about power structures around the league, NFL Network's Albert Breer had this interesting tidbit about the Texans:

Who's really in charge? The firing of Gary Kubiak brought the first big shakeup for [Texans owner Bob] McNair's organization in almost a decade. [Rick] Smith survived the switch as the team's GM, and he still runs the draft and free agency. But just the same, it's clear that [Bill] O'Brien carries a big stick coming aboard from Penn State, as evidenced by his securing contractual final say over the 53-man roster.

McNair has long viewed the Patriots organization -- which O'Brien spent five years in -- as a model. To that end, the Texans brought Brian Gaine -- who interviewed for the Dolphins', Jets' and Rams' GM openings in the last three years -- over from Miami as pro director. Gaine is fluent in the Parcells/Belichick language. Perhaps the biggest departure from last year is the specificity of the traits that O'Brien and his staff look for in players (the difference between "X" and "Z" receivers, "Y" and "F" tight ends, etc.). Maccagnan is a holdover, and has long been a trusted voice for Smith. Olsen handles the cap.

This jibes with what's been coming out of the building -- that O'Brien has a great deal of power when it comes to which players he'll coach. That it's in his contract shows that this was an important factor in his becoming the Texans' new head coach.

How the power structure shifts is always the interesting part when a team replaces only half of a GM/coach tandem and keeps the other half. While some teams have their general manager run the search for a new head coach, whether that's after hiring the GM first or by keeping the previous GM, McNair was extremely involved in the process of hiring O'Brien.

Smith has a very close relationship with the Texans' ownership, and he has their trust. But O'Brien's relationship with Smith is worth watching, especially given that Gaine comes from a similar tree as O'Brien.